ANNE SAMPSON Special at the Roanoke Times
This year’s winner in Garden & Gun Magazine’s “Made in the South” food category is Appalachian Beekeeping Collective in Lewisburg, West Virginia.
The collective was born out of the reforestation program of Appalachian Headwaters, a non-profit organization founded in 2016, dedicated to the renovation of land damaged by extraction mines on top of mountains. Informed that it would need pollinators, the organization began training beekeepers, providing free hives, bees and mentoring.
More than 100 beekeepers in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia today sell honey to nonprofits, and the collective sells the honey to the public.
Honey is honey, you say? Not so fast.
Bees make honey from pollen within an average of one to two miles of their hives, so that the character of the honey flows from what grows nearby. Think about the “terroir” of wines, coffees and chocolates – the distinctive environmental peculiarities of soil and climate that give a product its flavor.
This honey is made from trees.
“It really is a forest-based honey,” said Kate Asquith, executive director of Appalachian Headwaters. The black locust, a tree with a rich history in the southern mountains, was the judge’s favorite, with its notes of vanilla and mint. The grape varieties include classic Appalachian trees such as tulip poplar, linden, and sourwood. Each type of tree blooms at a different rate, giving the end product a more distinct and robust flavor than the wildflower honeys you are used to.